In order to begin printing a 3D-model, software is required in order generate [g-code](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G-code). Two of the more prominent solutions for this are [Slic3r](http://slic3r.org/) and [Pronterface](https://github.com/kliment/Printrun). While I really want to try Pronterface, I’ve stuck with Slic3r initially due to it’s easy-to-use interface and explanation of terms. That being said, I’d like to gloss over some of the default settings I’ve found to work best with the [PrintrBot Simple](http://printrbot.com/shop/printrbot-simple/).
When Slic3r is opened up by itself (as opposed to being run via Repetier), four tabs are presented to you: Plater, Print Settings, Filament Settings, and Printer Settings. Before generating the g-code, each of these tabs should be inspected and tuned to the model and printer being used. The nice thing about most programs, especially Slic3r, is that tooltips are provided to help explain certain terms. Therefore, I’ll simply gloss over the settings I’ve played with that I feel have a large impact on the print.
This tab is fairly straight forward. It is where you load in the model to be printed so that it can be visually reviewed. The model can be scaled, rotated, or translated to fit within the confines of the printer. This is also where the g-code can be generated or a new .stl file.
While all settings are important to tune, these are some of the more important ones for the visual appearance/integrity of your print. The General subsection contains two attributes I’ve noticed as particularly important. Layer Height defines, well, how high a layer is. To be more specific, how much plastic is extruded in a given area. As a visual, this will adjust how much you print looks like a log cabin or not. A large value will make the layers easily visible to the eye while a lower number will make the layer sections less obvious. Perimeters refers to how many outlines will be printed in a given level. This can be important for structural integrity (more perimeters) or to save filament (less perimeters). Again, model and preference dependent so play around with it.
I feel that this is a crucial parameter for prints. It is strongly correlated with how much filament is going to be used in a given print. The density is given as a percentage (.5 -> 50%) and defines how much filament will be used to fill in the middle of a model. When filling, the fill pattern also determines structural strength as well as filament usage. Again, refer to this Reprap blog for a great explanation of fill density and pattern.
This is the last section I’ve experimented briefly with. Speed refers to the rate at which the extruder head moves while printing the given feature. Depending on the extrusion rate of the printer, these may need adjusted to give the nozzle enough time to extrude sufficient filament. Likewise, the travel setting can be adjusted higher or lower if your prints exhibit strings or excess filament when the extruder moves between instructions.
These settings stay pretty much static throughout the life of your prints. Unless you change extruder heads or filament, these are defined by the hardware you have as well as the filament you are using. Diameter simply refers to the width of filament being used. This is used to calculate extrusion rates as well as determine how much filament will be needed for a given print. Temperatures vary with filament or aesthetic preferences. Certain filament melts at different temperatures and even exhibit different colors or characteristics when extruded at different temperatures.
Similar to the filament settings, these parameters are generally static and determined by the printer hardware being used. It’s quite obvious, but for completion: bed size is determined by the overall print area of your printer. For the PrintrBot Simple, the print area is roughly 100mm x 100mm, or a 4” cube. Therefore, the print center is half of that at 50mm x 50mm. Nozzle Diameter is the only other parameter to really pay attention to as the others should be good at their default. The Simple comes with a 0.4mm nozzle, I believe other options are 0.3mm and 0.5mm.
I’ve clearly glossed over a lot of the settings, but these are the most common that I’ve changed to help improve my prints. In general, I’ve found Slic3r to be extremely user friendly and with a simple software update, it’s performance has increased tremendously.
- G-Code manipulation
- PrintrBot Simple Upgrades